Publishers have made a fortune selling books about business writing. Likewise those who offer workshops, seminars and semester-long courses on the subject. There are countless webinars, e-courses, and simple blogs that profess to be the ultimate arbiter of proper business writing. Many are just repeating the same information while some claim to have found the one and only, surefire, best method for unlocking the secrets of successfully writing business documents — from emails to memos to handbooks and mission statements.
This post is NOT one of those.
The fact is that learning the accepted formats and formulas for business writing is only half the battle. Everyone from the CEO to the receptionist needs to have a solid grasp of basic grammar and usage before they attempt to master any type of writing, especially the sometimes verbose and self-referential styles prevalent in business correspondence.
To be an effective business writer, first master the basic rules writing. This includes understanding the elements of grammar: parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, and the different cases.
It is also important to understand the basic rules of punctuation and spelling. This includes being able to tell when to use a semi-colon versus a colon and memorizing the most commonly misspelled words.
This can be a problematic area for many people. In fact, a majority of errors fall into this category. As such, business writers should make sure that the fully understand when and how to use the following:
who/whom (and whoever/whomever)
There are hundreds of usage, punctuation, and grammar rules to master. Doing so will ensure that the vital email asking for an extension or extra funding won’t be misunderstood by the boss. Worse yet, a memo full of grammatical mistakes can make the writer appear incompetent and, therefore, not worthy of additional responsibility or promotion.
Georgia Lewellyn is a business coach and corporate instructor. She has also worked with educators to help develop lesson plans for ESL students (see: http://www.lessonplanet.com/article/esl/to-whom-it-may-concern). Her articles on business communication, public speaking, and presentation skills have been published on the leading business sites and blogs.